Excerpt from Ophelia
One of the memorable incidents was the bath night. He’d gone out for a game of poker and I ran a deep bath; it soothed and relaxed me. He came home early and the moment he walked in to the bathroom I realised I was in trouble.Before I knew it his hand was on my face, forcing my head under the water. I thrashed about, floundering like a man on fire; body lurching in pain, contorted with fear, gasping for breath. To imagine the fear, you couldn’t, it’s impossible.
Be smart, the voice said inside my head, Be smart, the voice repeated.
I lay still in the water not struggling, eyes opened and waited.
A thought, brief in its intrusion, Did I look as beautiful as Millais’ image of Ophelia floating in the river just before she drowned? Open arms and upwards gaze. Saint or martyr …? Was that my choice?
He removed his hand and I gasped for breath, coughing and spluttering for air. He got up and walked out of the bathroom. I sat in the bath hugging my knees to my chest whilst the water emptied. The cold forced me to get dressed.
He knew he’d gone too far. Breakfast in bed and the promise of a trip to the seaside was his way of saying sorry and erasing the guilt. He grovelled again, asked for forgiveness and sobbed in my lap.
“I can fix this,” he would say to me.
How could I not forgive him? After all he said he was sorry. He said it wasn’t his fault; it was the booze and a bad night of poker.
I believed him. Like a fool, I believed him.